Yesterday, we said goodbye to Yusef and headed north.We journeyed on the smallest plane yet! There was a lot of dust and turbulence as I noticed everyone looking out the window. I asked Ali if everything was normal and he said,”yes.” Turns out, as Ali told me once we landed safely, that we were caught in a sand storm and the pilot had missed the airport! It’s actually just a dirt path with some stone markers, not a typical runway and there is no “airport” to speak of, so I can see how they could miss it even in perfect conditions.
When we arrived in the new town we had to go check in with the top official of the city, comparable to our mayor. He was very apologetic about the current insecurity here, said he hoped for more tranquility for the NGOs and remarked that we had great courage to come here at this time. Gabriel and I looked at each other realizing that when the ” mayor” says something like this things must be pretty chaotic! This is the first time that we cannot go to the camp without armed security escorting us. This does little to comfort us because we’ve been told that the rebels are less likely to shoot at those unarmed. We met with the head of security in a darkened room with absolutely no light, which gave everything an even more ominous feel. Everyone here, however, has been very kind and helpful. There is only skeleton staff in the northern towns so I imagine comraderie is at an all time high. A woman we met from UNHCR spent six months in Darfur recently. It was very refreshing to speak with her because her heart is still so wide open. Many people working for NGOs that we’ve met have a harder exterior, probably to protect themselves from the onslaught of so many emotions. She was telling us about the terrible, almost inhuman conditions she’d seen at the IDP camps in Darfur due to the fact that so little aid could get into help. She’d seen tiny huts that she’d at first assumed were for the animals and later realized were the people’s living quarters. She spoke of the lack of food and almost complete lack of hope. She was clearly distraught by what she had seen and her very personal description of it was difficult to listen to. The hardest part to hear was about the awful condition of the many women being raped. I could see on her face how painful it must have been to witness these conditions. We asked about the security in the camps here and she said it was difficult to be sure right now because of conflicting reports and skeleton staff. She did say however that it was a very insecure time all around. She also mentioned a general fear among NGOs that Darfur would soon be completely forgotten.
Today,as we entered our last camp for this trip I was struck by the high winds and blistering cold. Small children, some with only summer dresses, came to greet us. I so wanted to give them my scarf and vest but there were too many to decide who would get them. It was a debilitating feeling. The tents themselves looked worse than the other camps and there was an overall feeling of desolation. We met people who spoke of the NGO’s evacuation and feeling so left alone with a lack of blankets. Many spoke of needing more wood and we were told that they went as far as 15 kilometers to find it. These outings result in clashes with the locals and women being attacked. One of the women who told us she had been beaten gathering wood was from the very first village attacked in Darfur and had therefore been here the longest. It seemed sadly fitting and reflective of the longevity of the genocide that we ran into her on our last day in the camps.The sense through out this camp is very much one of cold, abandonment and desolation.
It was depressing to know that we were leaving all of the beautiful souls that we’ve met and this would be our last stop. The children gathered and sang songs of welcome right before we departed, which felt sadly ironic. Their music gave me substinance for the journey home, where the real work is just beginning. I only wish as we left them here with so little aid to care for them, that our mission here was solely to offer them substinance for their immediate journey home.
In Solidarity, Stacey
Stacey’s replies to comments
Yes, Tim, may the people of Darfur be brought safely home this year. Thank you for being an inspiration and leader with your work to end this genocide. Many Blessings in 2007, Stacey
Marilyn, Yes it is quite windy in many of the camps with much dust and a chill in the air. Up north it gets VERY cold indeed. It is in the 70’s around Abeche and 40’s up north. The new arrivals need go through an interview process whereby they are granted refugee status. If there are unattended ( without parents) children, the details of who is best to care for them and/or commitment of relatives to care for them must be dealt with during this process. There is often a backlog entering the new arrivals into the database. There is a lot of red tape with block assignments, village information ,tent provisions and food rationing cards. It all serves to take a great deal of time to get these people settled ( as much as they can feel settled) as refugees. Yes, I imagine that the cold weather must be VERY difficult with no tents, especially after the trauma and travel. Peace, Stacey
Teresa, I, too feel a great responsibility to live up to the hopes the refugees have placed in America. As the end of this journey begins the greater challenge arrives. May we all stay united in our sustained efforts to stop this genocide now. Hugs, Stace
Marilyn,Thank you for the reminder that it’s all about individual moments connecting towards the greater goal. Thank you also for writing one of those individual moments with this comment. The situation in Darfur has changed me after seeing its direct effects but then so has the bravery and resilience of her people. Peace, Stacey
Thanks for joining us on the journey, Emily. Peace, Stacey
Hi, jc! Look so forward to meeting you and it has been an honor to work with your brother. All the Best in 2007, Stace
So good to hear from you, Darin. Yes, the children were very moving in both parts of this one world. I hope we can work together with the work you are doing in Uganda and the work we do. It is all connected. Thank you for the support and the vision you fulfilling yourself with your work! Look forward to talking when i return and here is to a peaceful 2007 for our global community! Peace Always, Stacey
Jules, Hoping to be at Agape on Sunday if all flows as planned and we can get out of Chad Sat. Then will rest on Monday before jumping into The Gift of Peace on Tuesday. Thank you for all your care for the people here and being a rock in my life. You were the first one to say to me, ” Everything is going to be fine there, no matter what is going on.” I believed you because your faith was so strong. I am so grateful that you are my friend, my sister and my teacher. Peace & Blessings, Stacey
Mom, Yes, we’ve learned ( you and I) that anger is not always negative as long as it’s channeled toward nonviolent action. I’ll share a lot with you about the 18 yr old when I get home. It is more than I can write here and I am still processing much of our conversation. FAWL was an incredible experience for the new arrivals,Gabriel and myself. Hopefully it will inspire more action to stop this genocide. I love you with all of my heart! Salaam, Charlie
Hi Susan, Glad you are back online. I know the feeling as I was without internet for two weeks before coming here. We forget what we did before all of this modern technology! Happy New Year and May we see peace in Darfur and Chad in 2007. Many Blessing to You, Stacey
Hi diana, Yes the children were indeed quiet. I’m not sure if it was the days events or the normal conduct in school. I, too would like to send tons of notebooks and pencils and crayons! Perhaps the boys anger will move toward inspired and nonviolent action like so many before him. I’m sure MLK, Gandhi, Mandela had to transmute their anger into the inspired lives they lived. Peace, Stacey
Thank you, Christine for following along this journey. Yes, the woman saw things very differently. The faith and strength we see here are both astounding to witness. The other day we got stuck in the sand for twenty minutes or so and I thought we might have to walk out of that desert. Then I remembered how many Darfurians had done just that and was renewed by their resilience. Many lessons to be learned by their unwavering faith! Blessings, Stacey
Consuelo, Yes, we do need these stories on television. These are true heroes who have survived insurmountable odds.Thank you for all you have done on their behalf and I look forward to hugging you when we get back. Paz, Stace
Thank you, Athina for you encouragement. We hope to bring hope and courage but most of all we hope to help stop the genocide. Thank you for being a part of that effort. Happy New Year, Stacey
THank you Reina Roberts for watching every day and for all you do to help the people of Darfur! Peace, Stacey
Anonymous, yes it was good the high Commissioner was here. Now we need his movement towards swift action to protect the people of Darfur! Peace, Stacey
Yousuke Arai, YOU are great to be involved and active so young! Keep leading the way. Much Peace, Stacey
Thanks, Jacob! Hopefully you’ll get to watch the other days in order to meet the beautiful people of Darfur. Peace, Stacey
David W, yes we are trying to fill the gap where Numbers become living breathing people. I;m glad you were touched and hope you spread the word about what is happening. One person at a time, we can change the world and end this genocide. Happy New Year, Stacey